First I want to reiterate the novel is indeed an excellent read, in my opinion, and one of my favorites. As in introduction into the culture of the time, it is a wonderful novel, and a wonderful novel altogether period. When I first read it myself, I was mesmerized how some of the principles were so much a part of my own very upbringing, and in fact my own pesonal thougth process, although of course modernized.
Can you point out to me some of the more important historical inaccuracies in "Shogun" that might help a novice like me as I read it
The major circumstance however, and checked with my family before I say this, at the time no European of the time was ever made samuraii, much less hamamoto, which is reserved for only the most respected and trusted of samurai by a liege lord, a distinction of true honor in japanese society. Well, someone explained above the "gist" of it, however their are small things throughout the novel that stick out at me. I will say this is not a knock on the novel at all, as it is a fiction novel. The obvious all the names are different, yet most relate to a historical figure in some way Toranaga is of course Tokugawa, a rather major figure in Japanese history, and it's last Shogun. It would be very easy to reseach him, and then compare with whats given in the text. There is a a part in the novel where in Osaka, Blackkthorne is captured, and the imprisoned monk with his flock, tells Blackthorne that in Japan men are named with their occupation first, and says he is a porter, when in fact the wording used means rail porter, unfortunately there were no railroads in Japan at the time or in the immiediate future, also the use of moma-san to is grossly misplaced, and almost unimaginable. Ninja are used a couple of times in the novels and movies, and the ninjas are grossly misrepresented...for all ninja enthusaists out their who think there shrouded costumes are so wonderful, and cool, I hate to be the one to inform you they were incoporated and developed first for use in japanese plays.
One question I have about the movie -- Katsumato has a shaved head -- no top knot! I assume this would not be accurate, that the filmmakers simply did that to distinguish him for American viewers?
I cannot be sure, perhaps, he just was bald, a couldn't grow hair? I would hate to speculate, it was of course custom, even more then custom to have such a hairstyle. However, in the movie I think it tells that Katsumato came from a temple, "out of the way", that his family owned, which may be the reasoning, also during this time frame in history, the samurai was being phased out so it was not altogether uncommon for a samuraii not to have the traditional cut, the movie is afterall called the the "Last" Samurai. One thing I do like about the movie is its inclusion of the actor that plays the Emperor, who is the son of a very famous kabuki actor in Japan, perhaps the most famous. One thing however, the difference in periods of times being displayed in Shogun and The Last Samuraii are extremely important, they do not take palce anywhere near the same time, thus the vast differences in the culture between Shogun and The Last Samurai.
If one is looking for a writer that does pretty accurate stuff, and is not looking for merely an action story, Olvier Statler's novel, Japanese Inn, is an amazing, and from what I can tell very accurate novel of Japan, during a simalair time period.